Archive for November, 2008

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes

So I finally managed to grab hold of my friend’s photos of the chocolate cupcakes I made for another friend’s birthday on the weekend. Phew! That was a long sentence!

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I got the recipe from Diva of Sugar Bar. The recipe claims to be the (one of) the best, moist cupcake recipe out there, and I gotta say, there’s alot of truth in it! I’ve tried so many chocolate cupcake recipes, and I can say that this takes the (cup)cake! 🙂

I added chocolate chips because I love the bursts of chocolate whenever you take a bite, and I used a normal buttercream for the frosting to emphasise the rich chocolate taste of the cupcake base. A dozen had some chocolate shards for more chocolate texture…

Chopped chocolate shards

Decorating the cupcakes

and the other dozen with just normal pink buttercream frosting…

Pink “rose” cupcakes

Same same, but different

Enroute to the party!

So everyone ooh’d and aaaah’d when they saw the cupcakes, and when I finally put them on the tier the cupcakes just looked soooo pretty! Look at my babies!!

Cupcakes in the tier! Preeeettty!!

Birthday girl eyeing her cuppies!

Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting

The cupcakes and their maker! 😛

Ok, I’m off to Japan very very early tomorrow morning, and will be back in Sydney next week Thursday. Until then, see ya! 😛

18 November 2008 at 2:43 am Leave a comment

Where to next…?

Japan!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but the boyfriend, his sister, a few friends, and myself are going to Japan for a week starting Wednesday. It’s one of those impulsive purchases we made about 7 months ago when Jetstar had a Japan sale to coincide with their 4th year anniversary. 

Well, I just can’t believe the day is (almost) finally here! We’ve been planning like crazy, researching about Japan, and talking about all the stuff we’ll be doing there! I’m so excited!

But what I’m most excited about is the gastronomical experience – oh just think about all the ramen, takoyaki, udon, tempura, sushi, sashimi, gyoza, okonomiyaki, and everything else Japan’s kitchens has to offer for us! I am soooooo bloody excited it’s hard to contain it!

Not looking forward to the plane ride, as Jetstar economy seats equals bad 8 hour flight (bad seats, bad – or no – entertainment, bad – or no – food), but it’ll do. As long as it gets me to Japan in half the price, I’ll take it!

Mmmmm Japan……

17 November 2008 at 2:14 am Leave a comment

I bake, therefore I am

Quoting the infamous Decartes quote is all I can think about right now. Just got home from a great and successful birthday party and… oh dear, I’m having a mental blank.

I baked some chocolate cupcakes using The Sugar Bar’s Diva Best Moist Chocolate Cupcakes recipe and… well… you know some recipes claim theirs is the best, most moist chocolate cupcake recipe? Well, this recipe is the most moist (and best!) chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve ever tried and tasted. Don’t know if it’s the half milk half butter, or the added coffee, or the 1/3 dry to wet ingredients combo, but damn was it the moistest, bestest chocolate cuppies I’ve EVER made.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to take photos of the cupcakes from the party because I was too busy “plating” the cupcakes, so I have to wait until my friends upload their photos. The cupcakes received very good reviews, which is always a compliment to the chef (or cook… or baker… or whatever I was!).

So just thought I’d do a little something and post a photo of my baking/dessert cookbooks, where I’m planning on baking at least one recipe per week, fortnight, or month (depending on my level of busy-ness, of course!)

Will post the photos soon, I promise! I can’t wait to share the photos here!

15 November 2008 at 11:01 am 1 comment

Bakefest Project

So it’s that time of the year again when birthdays and the Christmas holidays collide: a very dangerous mix of dearly loved one’s birthdays, and Christmas parties.

On last count, I have 4 birthdays, 4 Christmas parties, 1 three day trip to Hunter Valley, and a New Year party to attend to. And that’s not even counting another 3 birthday parties on January! And then holysmokes, it’s Valentine’s day once again.

Ok ok I don’t want to think THAT far. I will concentrate on November/December for now.

And first on the list is a friend’s birthday on Saturday. Now I’m in a bit of a dilemma: Friday night, I have 2 after work drinks to go to, so I’ll be coming home late. No time to bake the cupcake bases. Saturday morning, I try and sleep in before Body Attack class at 10.30am because it’s the only time I can get 8+ hours sleep, which I highly treasure. And then after the Attack class, I get home at 11.30, sometimes close to 12noon if I stay too long in the shower (try and do 4-5 Attack classes a week and you’ll understand the pain those legs go through… and a warm shower after class is just soooooothing). The party is at 1pm, which means I only have enough time to get ready and drive to their place (or the Bronte beach, if it doesn’t rain).

So where do I slot in the baking and the frosting? Hmmmm….. might have to wake up early on Saturday morning then. Oh well… all in the name of cupcakes!

Anyway, I have 3 baking cookbooks at home, 1 Nigella Express, 1 At Home cookbook, and 1 Australian Women’s Weekly Asian cookbook. Never mind the others, but I really really REALLY want to dig my hands into the 3 baking cookbooks. I’m at work right now so I can’t take photos, but I’ll try and upload some later when I get home.

So for Saturday’s party, I’ll pick a cupcake recipe from one of the baking cookbooks and try a recipe. A few of the guests are baking enthusiasts too (one’s a pastry chef – noooo pressure, Trish!), so it’ll be interesting to see what they’ll think of my cupcakes.

Ok enough procrastinating. Back to work, Trish!

13 November 2008 at 4:17 am Leave a comment

Bagel Escapade!

My first bagel attempt, although successful, was not impressive at all. The bagel was hard, and although bagels are dry by nature, mine was the drier kind. The ricotta and blueberry jam masked the flaws and imperfections of my baby (bagel) and made it incredibly tasty, but deep down the cook knows that the creation wasn’t the best in the book.

I should mention too that the only part of the whole bagel-making process is the kneading. Yes, I don’t have a mixer, so yes, everything is made by hand, and yes, I don’t like the constant kneading of a very hard-headed dough for 10 minutes. I don’t know why I don’t enjoy it.

So I refrained from baking bagels until the urge again last Saturday. Saturdays are generally for sleeping in, however my definition of “sleeping in” is waking up at 8.30am. I can never sleep past 9am, 10am if I had a really late night (which is becoming rarer these days). Maybe it’s the old age, maybe it’s the perpetually tired muscles, or maybe it’s just really my body’s way of slowly recovering from all those sleepless, tiresome nights working in the hospital some million eons ago (more like 2 years ago hehehe). But I digress…

So, back to bagels. Saturday morning, woke up at 8.30am, had my usual morning coffee and oatmeal, read my emails, the news, and before long it was 9am. My Saturday Body Attack class doesn’t start until 10.30am, so what to do for the next hour? I didn’t feel like baking anything sweet and buttery, because the previous week saw me with my (almost) disastrous gateau. But that’s another story for another day…

A quick rummage around the cupboard produced the following baker’s essentials: flour, sugar, butter, and eggs (oh, and chocolate, and cream, and vanilla… the list goes on hehe). So I decided to bravely journey into bagel-land once again, this time putting my hopes on good old Nigella’s hands. And can I just say, Nigella’s recipe was by far much easier to follow, made the dough rise as promised, yielded twice as many bagels, and much more delicious!

Nigella’s bagels (recipe from Not Quite Nigella)
1 kg all purpose flour
7g instant yeast
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp caster sugar – 2 tbsp for the flour mix, 2 tbsp for the water when poaching
500ml warm water

Toppings
Poppy seeds
Cinnamon & brown sugar
Tasty cheese
Sesame seeds (I ran out of them so no sesame for me)

1.    Mix together flour, yeast, salt.
2.    Add in vegetable oil and sugar. Mix with wooden spoon.
3.    Make a well in the centre of the mix, and pour in water. Mix with wooden spoon or by hand until form a springy dough.
4.    Transfer on a floured surface, and knead dough for about 10 minutes. The dough becomes very hard and stubborn so you’ll need to take those lovely arm muscles out! 🙂
5.    Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with cling, and let stand for about an hour to rise.

Timecheck: 10am. Must get ready for gym! So off I went, and did a really gruelling Body Attack class because I knew that when I get home, a lovely snack for tea that afternoon was waiting for me. Ahh yes… it’s called reverse compensation: what goes out (exercise), must come back in (bagels!).

6.    After an hour, the dough should be well-risen. With the precision of a Body Combater (another Les Mills class that has karate, muay thai, capoeira, and pilates incorporated into the routine), give the dough a punch to “deflate” it.

Dough!

Urge… to… punch… it…

WOOSH!!

Wow, that’s some stress reliever right there!

7.    A few more minutes of kneading is all that is required (thank goodness!). By this time I was sore from gym, but I wanted to finish off these babies before I head off to do my other Saturday chores.
8.    Roll the dough into an almost even ball (which, I must admit, could be hard!), enough to divide it into 3. Roll each of these 3 balls into thinner ropes, and cut each rope into 5. After all these balls and ropes business, you should end up with about 15 “ropes”, all ready to become bagels! Shaping the dough into bagels can be done in two ways: one is to make a ball of dough, poke your finger through the middle until you’ve made a hole, and then gently swirl the dough around the finger until you’ve created a pretty decent sized hole. Another way is to roll the dough into a slim “rope”, make a circle, and tuck in both ends, making sure you softly press the “junction” together (it might get undone when poached).
9.     Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
10.   On a pan, simmer water with sugar. Do not boil the water, but rather just let it simmer down. Poach the bagels 2-3 at a time, 15 seconds on each side, and then carefully lay them out into a baking tray lined with tea towels. Repeat for all 15 bagels.
11.   Choose your own topping: I had some poppy seeds so off they went, along with the tasty cheese and the cinnamon/brown sugar ensemble. You could also put in sesame seeds (I just ran out of them hehe!). You can even brush the plain ones with egg wash if desired.

Pre-baking

Look, a cinnamon pretzel!

12.    Line an oiled baking tray with baking sheets, and place the bagels with a bit of space in between each one. Bake for about 20 minutes or so until the bagels have a brownish tinge to it.
13.    Remove from oven, and let stand for about 10 minutes before transferring to another container to cool.
14.    Serve with ricotta or cream cheese and jam if desired.

Mmm… bagels…

12 November 2008 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

Pony Dining and Guylian Cafe

So I felt bad that the boyfriend and I haven’t gone out for an “intimate” dinner in a long time. The reason? I’ve been on a tight budget for the past year because of my mortgage, and obviously he starts feeling bad when the price tags of everything – clothes, food, activities – start going higher than my budget.

But I just recently acquired a significant wad of cash from my tax return, and to treat myself and the boy, I planned a nice, intimate dinner out in a fancy restaurant in the city. I wanted somewhere in OPT or Circular Quay, but one look at the prices and I retreated back. Don’t get me wrong… I’m sure those restaurants have absolutely fabulous menus, but I just couldn’t justify spending THAT MUCH without any occasion to celebrate (eg birthdays, V day, anniversary, etc).

So my friend suggested Pony in The Rocks. One quick Google of the place, one booking email, and we were set! I didn’t tell the boy where we were going at first.. only to wear something nice. I even volunteered to drive to the city, because oftentimes he is the designated driver.

Silly me forgot to bring my camera because a.) I was so excited to finally go to a nice restaurant and not just the local Mr Thanh’s Restaurant (although Mr Thanh’s beef pho is still the best in the area!), and b.) I was running late that night before the boy picked me up, and I was just running around trying to get ready, put on my dress, make up, shoes, and bag!

So we were first offered complimentary olives and grilled bread with eggplant dip for starters, and they were just fabulous! I never, ever liked olives before, but the ones in Pony were goodness gracious fabulous! And the smoky grilled bread with the spicy, almost-Moroccan eggplant dip were so tasty I could’ve eaten it all by myself!

Anyway, the service was excellent, although the wait staff did messed up our orders a bit. The boy ordered 2 of each of the oysters (can’t remember the type… oh I’m really getting old!), whilst I ordered the wood fired pork. Instead, he only got 2 oysters, and I got crispy skin prawns. Never mind that… I hate taking food back unless it’s raw. So I happily accepted the prawns, took one bite, and died and went to heaven. The prawns were the tastiest, most succulent, freshest prawns I’ve ever had! And I have to thank the honest mistake of the waitstaff. Woohoo!

Our main meals came soon after, and my medium sirloin with red wine sauce, wilted spinach, and potato cakes were just what I wanted, whilst the boy’s veal with zucchini fritatas, baby carrots, and jus was well received as well. I guess my one and only criticism was the potato cakes – they had this certain, indistinctive after taste that I did not enjoy at all. I would normally finish my whole plate clean, but this time I really couldn’t.

By this time we were both so full that we had to give dessert a miss. So we asked for the bill, and before I even took my arm out to take it, the boy quickly grabbed it and paid the dinner. I wanted to pay for it because it was my treat, but he said that he really wanted to pay for the whole thing because he wanted to surprise me. What a sweet boy! All these months of scrimping money has paid off! Yay!

So to reward the boy, I proposed a long walk around the harbour, and see if there’s still space in our tummies for dessert.

An hour of walking around the beautiful Harbour City of Sydney, past the Overseas Passenger Terminal, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and back to The Rocks later, we found ourselves (and our feet!) subconsciously heading towards the Guylian Cafe in East Circular Quay.

By this time, dinner was digested, and we were hungry for more degustation, budget style!

I ordered the baked chocolate cake with signature Guylian chocolate ganache, whilst the boy had the ice cream palate and a chocolate brownie on the side, plus 2 English breakfast teas to wash all the sweetness down. Although the price tag was abit more than Lindt and Max Brenner, the chocolate was indeed fabulous, the service incredible, and the whole experience unforgettable! Oh and this time, I insisted on picking up the bill!

All in all, the night was just as intimate as I wanted; the food as delicious as the menu, the wait staff, and the websites promised; and the night as great as I had planned!

Pony Lounge and Dining
The Rocks Centre
Shop 14-15 Argyle St (Cnr Kendall La)
The Rocks 2000 NSW

Entree: $17-$22
Mains: $24-$34
Dessert: $10.50-$14

I should also say that I had a lovely glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and the boy had a bottle of James Squire.And the head chef is Damian Heads, who is one of my favourite chefs in Ready Steady Cook (I loooove all cooking shows!).

Guylian Cafe

Shop 10 Opera Quays
3 Macquarie Street Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8274 7900

PS I will go back to these places and I will take photos, I can promise you that. Hahaha!

9 November 2008 at 7:31 am Leave a comment

Dad’s Birthday Spread

Had a low key birthday dinner for my dad last weekend. It was a mad cooking frenzy in the kitchen which involved 4 cooks – mum, my 2 sisters, and me! So just imagine the state of my kitchen during the cooking process. But, because mum was there, the whole place was cleaned up in a whiz in no time (mothers and their clean kitchens, eh?) 🙂

Hokkien noodles with mixed vegetables – growing up in a Filipino/Chinese community, we were taught that noodles are a very vital part of birthdays to wish the celebrant of “long life” (and many more birthdays and parties and eating!!)

Chicken Pasta

Fresh “lumpia” rolls (Filipino-style fresh spring rolls)

“Mechado” – Filipino style beef casserole with potatoes, carrots, and tomato sauce

And the last two pièce de résistance:

Crispy skin pork

Mum’s signature dish: grilled salmon with mixed herbs

And dad’s birthday cake: black forrest gateau (minus the chocolate ganache on the side of the cake, because he’s not allowed too much sweets!!)

And yes, the cake was as good as gone after the “Happy Birthday” song finished. It was delish!

8 November 2008 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

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